Fact vs. Fiction: The Legend of Orange Park’s ‘Humanzee’

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — Believe it or not… The town of Orange Park was once home to a leading primate research facility.


The Yerkes National Primate Research Center was shrouded in mystery during its operation and generated urban legends.

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Some still persist today, including the tale of a chimp-human hybrid supposedly birthed at the facility.

An unassuming office complex off of Kingsley Avenue housed the Yerkes National Primate Research Center from 1930 to 1965.

Back then, the road was narrow and heavily wooded.

Locals like Nelson Hellmuth, who grew up in Orange Park at the time, nicknamed the facility the “Monkey Farm.”

“They were hidden and had a big fence around, and they didn’t want anybody to know what they were doing,” Hellmuth said.

In 1978, Hellmuth purchased a building near the old complex, which was once used as the home of one of the lab’s caretakers.

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He now runs his business, The Granary Whole Foods, out of that building, and has amassed a wealth of knowledge about the old Monkey Farm’s history over the past 45 years.

“He had, you know, skulls opened up and electrodes. It was pretty gruesome work trying to measure this activity in the brain of this chimp. You know?” Hellmuth, describing the odd experiments conducted at the old lab, said.

One of the most notable urban legends surrounding the Research Center is that of the ‘Humanzee’ -- A human-chimp hybrid allegedly birthed at the facility.

In a recent article published by The Jaxon Magazine on the legend of the Humanzee, Dr. Gordon Gallup, a psychology professor at the University of Albany, relayed how he learned of the myth from an unnamed colleague.

“Within a week or so after the birth of the hybrid, the decision was made to euthanize the infant, because of all the profound social and psychological and religious repercussions,” Gallup told The Jaxson.

But Hellmuth has his doubts.

Instead, he believes a very real experiment conducted at the lab, where a baby chimp was raised alongside a human baby, likely gave rise to the Humanzee myth.

“They’d take them everywhere, just like a kid,” Hellmuth said.

Hellmuth said the experiment was designed to see whether raising a chimp alongside a human baby would make the chimp more humanlike, but the experiment was called off after it yielded the opposite result.

“Cause the chimp was not becoming like the girl, the girl was becoming like the chimp,” Hellmuth said.

The research center was moved from Orange Park to Atlanta in 1965.

Renamed the Emory National Primate Research Center last year, the facility continues to operate.

While the legend of the Humanzee may be just that… A legend.

The old Orange Park Monkey Farm will likely continue to be a source of conversation and mystery for locals for years to come.

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Action News Jax’s request for comment from the Research Center on the ‘Humanzee’ legend went unanswered.

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